Indigenous Leaders Warn International Oil Companies Not to Bid for Peruvian Amazon Oil Blocks on Ancestral Lands -- Rainforest Delegation Intervened in Perupetro's Houston Presentation to Demand No Drilling on Community Territories

Interviews, background, photos and maps available on request

Houston - Indigenous leaders today intervened in a presentation by Perupetro, Peru's state-owned oil company, of new hydrocarbon concessions for auction in the Peruvian Amazon, to warn US oil companies not to drill on their land.

The two leaders took to the stage at the Petroleum Club, in downtown Houston, this morning, to tell approximately 200 representatives of oil majors, including Exxon Mobil, that their communities would vigorously oppose both the auction and exploitation of any drilling blocks intruding on their tropical rainforest homelands.

Their interpreter read out a written statement: "Perupetro has not told you that the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon have publicly declared that they are against any further petroleum exploitation on their lands. We will resist any attempt to conduct petroleum activities on our lands until existing problems are resolved."

The two leaders were Robert Guimaraes, Vice President of AIDESEP, an umbrella organization representing the many indigenous nations of the Peruvian Amazon, and Washington Bolivar, President of FENACOCA, which represents native communities from central Peruvian Amazon.

After their intervention, the leaders and representatives of Amazon Watch, Amazon Alliance, Save Americas' Forests, Environmental Defense and Peruvian environmental and human rights groups World Wildlife Fund-Peru, Derechos Ambiente y Recursos, and Racimos de Ungurahui resumed their seats and distributed factsheets on the impacts of oil and gas development on the Peruvian Amazon and indigenous communities to the audience. Attendees of the presentation approached the leaders and representatives to ask questions afterwards.

Yesterday, in a private meeting with the delegation of indigenous leaders and their NGO allies, Perupetro President Daniel Saba made a verbal commitment to continue dialogue with the indigenous communities and to cancel the blocks if the communities proved there were flaws in the way these were drawn up. The leaders accepted this commitment in good faith but, given the history of the oil industry in the Amazon, believe they need to continue campaigning until a binding agreement is reached.

Perupetro is hoping to attract US energy companies to the highly controversial drilling concessions. In total, Perupetro is tendering 11 Amazonian blocks, covering approximately 22 million acres of highly biodiverse, intact primary tropical rainforest.

Three of those blocks intrude upon official reserves set up to protect some of the last native peoples still living an isolated and traditional lifestyle anywhere in the Amazon. Three overlap protected areas and nine intrude upon titled indigenous lands. Only one block does not intrude on indigenous lands or protected areas.

In none of the blocks has Perupetro obtained Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), an internationally recognized human rights benchmark intended to protect the rights of indigenous communities whose lives and lands stand to be affected by extractive mega-projects such as oil drilling.

The new blocks mean that approximately 70 percent of the Peruvian Amazon, one of the largest areas of tropical rainforest anywhere in the world, will be carved into oil concessions. As recently as 2005, before the U.S. Government's Trade Development Agency gave Perupetro U.S. tax dollars to develop and market its oil concessions, it was under 20 percent.

Huge areas of Peru's rainforest, such as the Lower Urubamba region in the south and the Corrientes River in the north, and the indigenous communities that live there have already suffered severe impacts as a result of drilling for oil and gas. So far, the Peruvian state has shown little sign that it is willing to learn from these disasters.

Perupetro's roadshow comes as investors grow increasingly concerned about the high risks of hydrocarbon activities in remote areas of the Amazon. Some oil majors are already giving up because of the huge logistical challenges and the often intense opposition of local communities increasingly aware of the ecological and public health crises caused by oil drilling in other parts of the Amazon.

In December, Occidental Petroleum announced that it was withdrawing from its remaining Amazonian concessions, in Peru, for a range of business reasons including the determined and organized opposition of local communities. ConocoPhillips, meanwhile, has placed its three Amazonian concessions, two in Ecuador and one in Peru, "under review" for similar reasons.

For a fact sheet and map about controversial concessions in Peru, click on www.amazonwatch.org/PE07.pdf

For background on the struggle of indigenous peoples to protect their rainforest homelands in the Amazon, visit www.amazonwatch.org.

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